West Potomac Coach Danny Meier says that schools from other regions think Potomac vs. West Potomac is one of those late-season neighborhood rivalries to determine local bragging rights. But these teams line up face to face for the first time in Saturday's Virginia AAA Division 5 state football championship game, and more than just the school names are similar.

Each team has won 25 of 27 games over the past two seasons and both played in a state title game last year -- West Potomac of Alexandria won the Division 6 crown, Potomac of Dumfries lost the Division 5 final. In the past three seasons, Potomac is 35-4 and West Potomac is 34-5. Last year West Potomac was ranked first in The Washington Post poll and Potomac third. This year those rankings are reversed.

The teams have two of the finest defenses in the state, spearheaded by two of the best linebacking crews. And to top it off Meier and Potomac Coach Bill Brown met during last year's Virginia High School League all-star game, roomed together and became friends.

Both teams head into the 1:30 p.m. game at Potomac off shutout victories in last week's state semifinals. In fact, West Potomac is unscored upon in three playoff games and has allowed only 45 points all season. Potomac has given up 17 of its 79 points in the playoffs.

Both schools have built a tradition of excellence and each year can envision playing for a title.

"We stress that we have a program and we set our goals very high each year," said Brown. "At the all-star game I talked to coaches with 200 wins and all kinds of championships. They told me that winning is a state of mind, and there is something to that."

"I'm not sure either of us expected to be here. They lost B.J. {quarterback B.J. Hawkins, now at Notre Dame} and we lost 19 starters," Meier said. "But hey, I'll play them every year if it's in the state final."

West Potomac lost its first two games by 7-0 scores. But the Wolverines haven't lost since, bulldozing 11 opponents by a combined 417-31. Unbeaten Potomac hasn't put up the huge offensive numbers -- a relatively modest 272 points -- but the Panthers have played the tougher schedule and found a way to win each time, including a rugged opening stretch in which four of five games were decided by a touchdown or less.

"Not taking anything away from them, we have had a tougher road to get here," Brown said. "We played E.C. Glass with one loss and undefeated Heritage, and our district was probably tougher. We've gotten as close to losing as you can and not lost."

Brown probably was referring to the opening-round playoff win over Glass. With Potomac down, 14-13, Shane Wright threw a long option pass to Keith Honore for a touchdown with 22 seconds left. It was in the final practice session for that game that the Panthers were dealt a potentially devastating blow as all-Northwestern Region quarterback Gilbert Telleria dislocated the thumb on his throwing hand. But the 5-foot-9, 155-pound senior has played each playoff game and his presence has lifted Potomac.

"Both quarterbacks {Telleria and West Potomac's Matt Browne} seem like winners," said Meier. "{Telleria} is a pesky guy who just gets it done. He makes things happen."

"You can't overemphasize this: Without him {Telleria} we couldn't be here," Brown said. "He's a great leader. When our team sees the smallest guy get hit and continue to keep his feet they say, 'If he can do that we all can.' "

Telleria will certainly be tested by the Wolverines defense. All-Met lineman Jon King is the school's all-time leading tackler and what tackles he doesn't get, the outstanding linebacking corps does. Lamont Gooding at 6-1, 255 pounds is an imposing figure inside and Jason Ziegler, Carl Jones and Jay Hutton all are quick to the ball.

The excellent Panthers linebackers are All-Met defensive player of the year Keith McAfee, his twin Kevin, C.J. Morgan and Kevin Lewis. All are similar in size and pursuit is their strong point. But they face a potent Wolverines wing-T which in one game had 14 runners combine to gain more than 400 yards.

"If you were to pick a team of linebackers, our teams are where you look," said Meier. "They have four dandies and I like our four. There will be some knocking going on in this game."